Those who either live nearby, work in or visit Taunton can’t fail to have noticed the work going on to improve Somerset’s County town’s public spaces.
It all began back in 2009 with the completion of Somerset Square, the space on the opposite side of the river to Morrisons and next to The Brewhouse but we couldn’t leave without smartening up the area to the front of the theatre and arts centre as well.
In 2010 having completed flood prevention work and subsequent landscaping at Longrun Meadow, the 65 acres of countryside ‘park’ was handed over to the public for their enjoyment. If you haven’t visited the living green cathedral you really must. Designed and constructed by local willow artists Stefan Jennings and Sophie Courtiour, it’s glorious and the only one of its kind in the country.
There was a flurry of work in 2011 with significant projects starting in Goodland Gardens, Castle Green (more on this space on another occasion) and the High Street.
This final space, Taunton’s pedestrianised High Street, is undergoing the second phase of works to deliver the exciting masterplan designed by local architects Reed Holland Associates. But redesigning Taunton’s High Street is just the start...
A Town Team, including businesses and landlords, has ‘gone into action’ to pursue Mary Portas (Queen of Shops) funding, of up to £100,000, to inject life into the less-than-lively area which, quite frankly, is dead once the shops close.
Those behind the application to become a Portas Pilot (including members of the Project Taunton team) will be hitting the High Street on Thursday 22 March to tell people about the plans and to drum up support. We will be on the street from 9am giving out flyers, asking people to back the plans and answering questions.
Only 12 towns across the UK will benefit 1) from a share of a £1million fund to revive England’s high streets and 2) mentoring from the retail guru herself but Taunton’s Town Team is determined to carry on whatever the outcome.
The plans for Taunton’s High Street area include appointing a ‘Buzz Maker’ (a person who will coordinate and run a busy events calendar for the High Street), hosting specialist monthly markets, creating a children’s play area on the High Street to keep little ones amused and establishing a free mentoring and support scheme to help both current retailers and those thinking about opening up a shop in Taunton.
Ian Franklin, Project Taunton, who is a key supporter of the Town Team says:
“Taunton High Street could and should be a really lively, buzzy place and we want EVERYONE to share our excitement and enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve. I’m sure we would all love our High Street to wake up and “live a little” and we want to spread the word about the Portas Pilot application and get reactions from shoppers, visitors, retailers – everyone.”
Members of the Town Team will be wearing ‘Taunton for Portas Pilot’ t-shirts so they are identifiable and will be asking everyone to ‘take the pledge’ to support the application. It is absolutely vital that we demonstrate that we have strong and widespread support for the plans if we are to be successful.”
People who like the plans for the area are being asked to show their support, either via ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ the Taunton High Street Facebook page - www.facebook.com/tauntonhighstreet - or via www.tauntonhighstreet.co.uk.